WASHINGTON – The American Gaming Association (AGA) supports Sen. Harry Reid’s efforts to legalize online poker in the United States.
“This is tough law-and-order legislation that puts in place a solid regulatory framework and legal oversight that will prevent illegal activity and protect the estimated 15 million Americans who already are playing poker online,” said Frank Fahrenkopf, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association. “Ours is a unique industry in that it wants tough regulatory control and strict law enforcement oversight, which ensures the integrity of our business and protects consumers. Current online gambling laws do not provide these safeguards, leaving players and the system open to fraud, cheating and other illegal acts.”
The proposed legislation ensures that Federal and state authorities will now have the ability to control what has, until now, been unfettered access to all forms of Internet gambling. It protects states’ rights to choose whether to legalize online poker in their states and provides them with the authority, tools and resources necessary for the proper policing of Internet poker.
The legislation would eliminate ambiguity within current law and provide substantial new tools to improve enforcement of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) by requiring the Treasury Secretary to compile a blacklist of unlicensed Internet gambling sites with which payment processors are prohibited from dealing. This clarification will help ensure that unlawful Internet gambling enterprises can no longer operate in the shadows.
The legislation also strengthens law enforcement oversight for Internet operators, proposing severe civil penalties for violating the Internet gambling ban and more than doubling the criminal penalty for illegal Internet gambling.
The bill also would, for the first time, put strong Internet gambling regulatory controls in place that protect consumers and vulnerable groups, including underage and problem gamblers. Existing online gambling companies may or may not have incentive to respect age limitations or state prohibitions on gaming, but this legislation ensures the integrity of all operators and protects U.S. citizens from the cheating, identity theft and fraud that has taken place in this arena. It also provides for opportunities to improve responsible gaming initiatives online.
Beyond player protection, the proposed legislation would inject more than $3 billion in new tax dollars to the struggling U.S. economy, as well as thousands of new jobs that cannot be shipped overseas. The legislation also levels the international playing field for U.S. gaming companies that have been responsible for providing hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs and bringing economic development to many parts of this country.
“Without this legislation, players will remain unprotected, law enforcement oversight will remain murky, illegal offshore operators will continue to reap billions from U.S. bettors, and the U.S. will continue to lose out on the significant tax revenues and thousands of jobs that could be generated by this already popular activity,” Fahrenkopf said. “The millions of Internet poker players need and deserve the protections of a strong regulatory structure and law enforcement oversight that this legislation would provide.”